FOR ALMOST TWO decades, Will Carpenter of Chesterfield has been
working to stamp out chemical weapons in a mighty big arena: the
Carpenter, 65, a soft-spoken southern gentleman, has been part
of the team that has negotiated the complex and ambitious United
Nations treaty known as the Chemical Weapons Convention.
He retired three years ago from Monsanto as vice president and
general manager of the new products division of the agricultural
He is known as a spokesman for chemical weapons disarmament.
Carpenter says that destruction of chemical weapons presents
certain risks, especially environmental ones. "But their very
existence is too great a risk to wait eight or 10 years," he says.
"The net risk to society is greater by screwing around. This is not
an academic exercise. There are tens of thousands of tons of this
The U.S. signed the treaty in January 1993 but hasn't ratified
it, mostly because Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., chairman of the
foreign relations committee, opposes it. Helms agreed earlier this
month to start hearings on the treaty in February.
Carpenter called Helms' decision a major breakthough. Once the
issue comes up for a vote, he's betting it will pass about 80-20.
The treaty is to go into effect when 65 nations ratify it. On
Oct. 30, El Salvador became the 44th.
Conceivably, the treaty could take effect without U.S.
ratification, meaning that this country would not be able to
participate in the inspection process or see the inspection
reports. But the treaty simply won't work without American
participation, Carpenter said.
The technology required to make chemical weapons is not exotic
and, unlike nuclear weapons, manufacturing them does not require
sophisticated knowledge, Carpenter said. "Any renegade nation can
get into chemical weapons," he said.
The treaty permits trade in chemicals among the countries that
have signed the treaty, meaning that they have agreed to allow
immediate inspection of any facility, military or civilian, at the
request of any other party.
The U.N. can impose severe restrictions on chemicals and
equipment from which weapons can be made in countries not part of
The treaty allows for quick means of verification. "If country
A thinks Country B is making chemical weapons and signs a complaint
asking the U.N. to perform a challenge inspection, U.N. inspectors
must be knocking on the doors of Country B within 48 to 72 hours
with the equipment to detect the presence," Carpenter said. …